Long-awaited judgement is a direct affront to the judicial system and a big snag impeding the smooth sailing of the justiceship. English law, common law, customary law and the highly dreaded Sharia law, all considered in both Federal and State courts, regard the Nigerian constitution as the bedrock of legal but consistently fail to meet the expectations of well-meaning Nigerians. It goes without saying that reaching a conclusion has been a bane for years and still counting, and it seems there is no end in sight.
In the emergence of these stumbling stocks, the institution of justice in Nigeria needs a total recalibration and conscientious effort to render the current practice of legal tussles archaic and factor in the use of a more empirical approach to cut down the excesses of judicial irregularities. Citizens’ Gavel’s 2020 Judicial report analysed a total of 1627 cases from 33 States and the Federal Capital Territory in Nigeria. The report recorded Lagos as a State with very slow handling of civil cases (actually number 32) in the ranking of States’ high courts in Nigeria. The population of 12,550,598 and the estimated legal problems of 1,586,825 handled by 55 judges achieved a timeline of 759 days from the start to completion of a criminal trial in 2019. It took a downward trajectory in 2020 as 1,089 days were needed for criminal trial completion.
At the same time, civil cases took 979 days to be completed in 2019 and a far more alarming 1,134 days in 2020. Compared to Borno’s 5,860,183 (triple Lagos population) with 732,523 cases handled by 15 Judges, it was also recorded that it took approximately 230 days to complete civil cases in 2019. whilst in 2020, there was a significant improvement as civil cases were resolved in an average of 19 days.
Furthermore, it took 158 days to complete criminal cases in 2019 but got swifter attention within 92 days in 2020. Borno, Bauchi, and Cross River must be commended for their efforts to pace up justice delivery in state high courts as regards criminal cases. Moreso, Borno, Yobe, and Ogun deserve encomium for the admirable speed of their States’ high courts in administering justice. Other States (Abuja inclusive) must accept the challenge posed by their high-ranking peers by not flouting court orders, abandoning backlog of pending cases, prioritising conflict of interests during disciplinary proceedings, law enforcement apathy, trivialising the use of ICT and opposing judicial independence. Upholding the constitution and, more importantly, keeping track of world-class practice to administer justice is a progressive way of giving the judiciary better publicity that’s easily seen by all. Consequently, the hope of the common man is not dashed.
As we continue to identify the lapses bedevilling the courts and the institution of law, our attention should not be swayed by sensational proclivities. The principal role of the judiciary is to protect the rule of law and ensure the supremacy of that same law. Though controversies over the application of laws in specific situations arise, the task of the judiciary to authoritatively adjudicate should not be compromised.
The interim dispensation of the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Oluwakayode Ariwoola, has been given a herculean task to mop the mess of the past, instil discipline and harmony and sanitise this sensitive branch of government that has been empowered to give the citizenry massive hope that justice is attainable without favouritism and acute nepotism.
A Freelance Writer/Paralegal at Citizens ‘Gavel from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at email@example.com.